Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Signs That Your Muscles Need to Recover
- Active Recovery
- Cool Down
- Fitness Boost: The Best Strengthening Exercises
- Myofascial Release
- Passive Recovery
- Vitamins and Supplements
- Here Comes The Sun: Fighting Vitamin D Deficiency!
- Warm Up
- The Perfect Post Workout Routine
- How to Improve Mobility
- Benefits of an Infrared Sauna Detox
When it comes to working out, proper muscle recovery is just as important to your success as the exercises you do.
Whenever you exercise intensely, you’re also creating microtrauma in your muscles: tiny tears in the muscle fibers. The healing process stimulates muscle cell activity, which can help your muscles repair, strengthen, and recover.
Unfortunately, this cycle of tearing and healing can also cause muscle soreness.
If you’re working out often and/or at a high-level, you’re even more likely to experience the pain of sore muscles.
Sometimes, all you need is a few days off for your muscles to be back to their usual strong and healthy form.
But if you’ve overtrained or pushed yourself too hard, you’ll need more than a rest day. You might need muscle recovery.
Let’s look at the best ways you can recover, repair, and restore your muscles to keep them healthy and strong.
Signs That Your Muscles Need to Recover
What’s the difference between wanting a break between workouts and needing a break?
For the most part, a good night’s sleep and a nutritious meal are all you need to recover from a good workout. But if you’ve been overtraining, rest alone won’t be enough.
So how can you tell whether your muscles need to repair and recover?
Here are some clear signs your body will send you when it’s time to elevate your muscle recovery.
- Decreased performance level over a 7-10 day period
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite or loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle soreness
- Reduced motivation
If you notice any of these signs, your usual between-workouts habits might not be enough to meet your muscle repair needs.
Here are additional things you can do to lessen your “downtime” and help your muscles recover properly.
14 Best Ways to Help Your Muscles Recover
Muscle recovery is an essential part of meeting or even exceeding your workout goals.
If you’re noticing signs that your muscles need extra help with recovery, here are some of things you can do for them.
Did you ever finish a brutal training session and just want to collapse for the next few hours? It might sound good, but it’s not the best option for your muscles.
During a high-intensity workout, your muscles build up and store toxins such as lactic acid and hydrogen. If you abruptly cease your activity, those toxins stay in your muscles and interfere with healing and recovery.
Following an intense workout with active recovery will increase the blood flow to those muscles, helping eliminate toxins.
Active recovery consists of slow, light movements. Think non-aerobic or low-intensity exercises.
For example, if you just ran several miles at your maximum speed, your active recovery might consist of a few minutes of slow jogging or walking.
Have you noticed the long sleeves or knee-high socks certain athletes use? Those aren’t just fashion trends. They serve a valuable purpose: preventing or reducing muscle soreness.
These tight-fitting items are usually made of strong, elastic material. They compress the blood vessels, which helps them pump blood more effectively. The increased blood flow brings healing oxygen to your muscles and removes pain-causing toxins.
The main drawback to compression gear is that it’s only helpful in the area where it’s worn. If you’re doing full-body workouts and have sore muscles all over, compression socks or sleeves alone aren’t enough for your overall muscle recovery.
After your workout, cool down properly with static stretches—stretches that you hold in one position for 30 seconds or longer.
These will loosen your muscles, improve your range of motion, and help prevent soreness.
Choose stretches that focus on the muscles you used during your workout. Some good static stretches include hamstring stretches, IT band stretches, and hip openers.
One of the reasons that your muscles get sore is repeated stress. This is especially true if you play a sport or consistently choose the same workout format.
For example, if you usually go to spin class, your glutes and legs will be on fire the next day. On the other hand, your biceps and abs might be feeling great.
While you’re letting one set of muscles recover, you can cross-train and use different muscles. Or, use the same muscles but in different ways. In the example above, being sore from cycling, you can allow those muscles to recover while strength training, boxing, swimming, etc.
Have you ever iced a sore muscle? Well, cryotherapy can take that to the next level.
Cryotherapy uses extreme cold to treat sore or injured muscles and is usually performed in a cryo-chamber, with a cooling system lowering the temperature. It’s a modern-day version of the post-game ice bath once used by professional athletes.
Like ice packs, cryotherapy has been proven effective in combating muscle inflammation and soreness, speeding up muscle recovery time.
But, because of the dangerously cold temperatures, cryotherapy should only be performed under the direction of a skilled therapist.
Sweating through a workout is usually a good thing, a sign that you’re working hard and putting in the maximum effort.
Too much sweat, though, and you’ll risk losing electrolytes such as chloride, magnesium, potassium, and sodium—all essential to optimal muscular functions. Low electrolyte levels can also cause muscle spasms and cramps, exactly what you don’t need in a muscle recovery phase.
You can get electrolytes naturally in foods such as spinach, lentils, and sunflower seeds. You can also replace lost electrolytes with a sports drink or electrolyte supplement (we like this one by Upgraded Formulas).
Some athletes even drink pickle juice for an electrolyte boost!
Getting enough water before, during, and after your workout is essential to effective muscle recovery.
But while many people aim to get their 8 cups per day, the truth is that you probably need more than that. In fact, the current recommendations are 15.5 cups per day for men and 11.5 cups for women.
And that’s just an average! If you’re working out hard and sweating, you need even more than that.
Have you ever dipped in the hot tub to soothe sore muscles? If so, then you’ve had hydrotherapy!
Hydrotherapy, also known as water immersion, comes in three forms: cold water immersion (CWI), hot water immersion (HWI), or contrast water therapy (CWT), which alternates between CWI and HWI.
CWI has been shown to be more effective. It functions similarly to cryotherapy, cooling your muscles, but not to the same extreme.
Some of the benefits of CWI include:
- Increase elimination of toxins (such as lactic acid)
- Reduce swelling and soreness
- Decrease tissue breakdown
Myofascial tissue is the tough, thick membranes that surround and support your muscles. When the myofascial tissue is tight from trauma, including overwork, it can become tight and rigid. This causes muscle pain and inhibits your natural range of motion.
Through myofascial release therapy, you can release soreness, pain, and tightness from specific trigger points.
You can go to a myofascial release therapist for relief; they’ll identify your trigger points and release them with pressure, massage, or kneading.
Many massage therapists can also do myofascial release, especially if they’re doing deep tissue massage. You can also do myofascial release yourself, with a foam roller or tennis ball.
Your muscles need fuel to recover, and that fuel is food.
Ideally, you should eat in the first 60-90 minutes after your workout, which is when your body will most effectively use the nutrients to fire up your muscle recovery.
The best post-workout muscle recovery foods include these basic elements.
- Quality whole-grain carbohydrates, which replenish muscle fuel
- Lean protein, which supports muscle repair
- Fluids and electrolytes, to keep you hydrated and replace lost nutrients
If your stomach can’t handle a bigger meal or snack after working out, you can split your post-workout nutrition into 2 or 3 smaller snacks.
Remember when we discussed active recovery, with lower-intensity exercises? Well, here’s your chance to kick back completely.
During a passive recovery phase, you take time off completely from exercise. Enjoy a Netflix binge, your favorite novel, or even just daydreaming outdoors while you give your body a total rest.
Getting enough quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your physical, emotional, and mental health and wellbeing. And that includes muscle recovery.
Most adults need, at minimum, 7 hours per night of sleep. Keep in mind, however, that this number is quality sleep. If you’re dozing in and out of a movie, that doesn’t count as “quality” sleep.
Vitamins and Supplements
While we would normally encourage you to get your nutrients from healthy, nutritious foods, additional supplements for muscle recovery can also be helpful.
Different nutrients work in different ways. Some decrease the time it takes for your muscles to recover, some help eliminate soreness from lactic acid, and others reduce muscle fatigue and give your muscles more energy while they’re recovering.
If you decide to take a muscle recovery supplement, here are some nutrients to look for.
- Protein: helps your muscles recover more quickly
- Essential Amino Acids (EAA) & Branched-chain Amino Acids (BCAA): reduces muscle fatigue and soreness (We recommend this supplement by Kion. Use code WELLORG for 10% off.)
- Fatty Acids: reduces lactic acid and inflammation, prevents muscle soreness
- Creatine: may increase muscle strength during recovery
- Magnesium: helps muscles relax, reduces the likelihood of cramping (We recommend this supplement by BiOptimizers.)
- Citrulline Malate: increases blood flow to get nutrients to your muscles more quickly
- Tart Cherry Juice Extract: reduces inflammation and post-workout muscle pain
A good multivitamin can also help. To pick the right one, look for one that contains these vitamins for muscle repair.
- Calcium and Vitamin D: create stronger muscles, which will in turn recover more quickly
- Vitamin A: helps with protein synthesis
- CoQ10: reduces muscle fatigue
What you do before and after your workout is just as important as what you do during your workout.
Before your workout, take time to warm up your muscles with dynamic stretches, stretches that involve movement.
Arm circles, leg swings, and high stepping are all examples of dynamic stretches that activate your muscles, prepare them for more intense exercises, and protect them from strains and other injuries.
Intense workouts can lead to soreness, cramps, inflammation, and other muscle damage.
But you don’t have to suffer the consequences of your high-performance workouts!
Proper muscle recovery is essential to maintaining a high-performance level and avoiding injuries.
Start taking care of your muscles, including their recovery, for a lifetime of health and fitness.
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